- Good Versus Evil
- Law Versus Chaos
- Alignment Steps
- The Nine Alignments
- Good Alignments
- Changing Alignments
- Ultimate Campaign on Alignment
- Gamemastery Guide on Alignment
- Variant Alignment Rules (Unchained Variant)
- Moral Challenges and Dilemmas
- Timing and Focus
- Shifts and Affirmations
- Going Cosmic
- Alignment Feats
- Removing Alignment
- Affected Classes
- Creatures, Spells, and Effects
This game assumes good and evil are definitive things. Evidence for this outlook can be found in the indicated good or evil monster subtypes, spells that detect good and evil, and spells that have the good or evil descriptor. Characters using spells with the evil descriptor should consider themselves to be committing minor acts of evil, though using spells to create undead is an even more grievous act of evil that requires atonement. Creatures with an evil subtype (generally outsiders) are creatures that are fundamentally evil: devils, daemons, and demons, for instance. Their redemption is rare, if it is even possible. They are evil to their very core, and commit evil acts perpetually and persistently. Mortals with an evil alignment, however, are different from these beings. In fact, having an evil alignment alone does not make one a super-villain or even require one to be thwarted or killed. The extent of a character’s evil alignment might be a lesser evil, like selfishness, greed, or extreme vanity. Having these qualities might not even cause the character to detect as evil when subjected to detect evil, as creatures possessing 4 or fewer Hit Dice do not register to the spell (with the exception of clerics or other characters that radiate an aura).
A creature’s general moral and personal attitudes are represented by its alignment: lawful good, neutral good, chaotic good, lawful neutral, neutral, chaotic neutral, lawful evil, neutral evil, or chaotic evil.
Alignment is a tool for developing your character’s identity—it is not a straitjacket for restricting your character. Each alignment represents a broad range of personality types or personal philosophies, so two characters of the same alignment can still be quite different from each other. In addition, few people are completely consistent.
All creatures have an alignment and alignment determines the effectiveness of some spells and magic items.
Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral. Even deadly vipers and tigers that eat people are neutral because they lack the capacity for morally right or wrong behavior. Dogs may be obedient and cats free-spirited, but they do not have the moral capacity to be truly lawful or chaotic.
Good characters and creatures protect innocent life. Evil characters and creatures debase or destroy innocent life, whether for fun or profit.
Good Good implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others.
Evil Evil implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.
Neutral People who are neutral with respect to good and evil have compunctions against killing the innocent, but may lack the commitment to make sacrifices to protect or help others.
Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties. Chaotic characters follow their consciences, resent being told what to do, favor new ideas over tradition, and do what they promise if they feel like it.
Law Law implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability. On the downside, lawfulness can include closed-mindedness, reactionary adherence to tradition, self-righteousness, and a lack of adaptability. Those who consciously promote lawfulness say that only lawful behavior creates a society in which people can depend on each other and make the right decisions in full confidence that others will act as they should.
Chaos Chaos implies freedom, adaptability, and flexibility. On the downside, chaos can include recklessness, resentment toward legitimate authority, arbitrary actions, and irresponsibility. Those who promote chaotic behavior say that only unfettered personal freedom allows people to express themselves fully and lets society benefit from the potential that its individuals have within them.
Neutral Someone who is neutral with respect to law and chaos has some respect for authority and feels neither a compulsion to obey nor a compulsion to rebel. She is generally honest, but can be tempted into lying or deceiving others.
Occasionally the rules refer to “steps” when dealing with alignment. In this case, “steps” refers to the number of alignment shifts between the two alignments, as shown on the following diagram. Note that diagonal “steps” count as two steps. For example, a lawful neutral character is one step away from a lawful good alignment, and three steps away from a chaotic evil alignment. A cleric’s alignment must be within one step of the alignment of her deity.
|Good||Lawful Good||Neutral Good||Chaotic Good|
|Neutral||Lawful Neutral||Neutral||Chaotic Neutral|
|Evil||Lawful Evil||Neutral Evil||Chaotic Evil|
Nine distinct alignments define the possible combinations of the lawful-chaotic axis with the good-evil axis. Each description below depicts a typical character of that alignment. Remember that individuals vary from this norm, and that a given character may act more or less in accord with his alignment from day to day. Use these descriptions as guidelines, not as scripts.
The first six alignments, lawful good through chaotic neutral, are standard alignments for player characters. The three evil alignments are usually for monsters and villains. With the GM’s permission, a player may assign an evil alignment to his PC, but such characters are often a source of disruption and conflict with good and neutral party members. GMs are encouraged to carefully consider how evil PCs might affect the campaign before allowing them.
Alignment is a tool to aid players in creating personalities for their characters. It is a guideline for a character’s morality, and Game Masters should not use it to unduly hamper characters, nor should it be used to straitjacket PCs in regard to determining the relationships between them. Just because two characters are of good alignments—possibly the same alignment—does not guarantee they can work well together. Other personality traits ultimately affect the type of relationship formed, not just similarity along the good-evil alignment axis.
The good alignments are shorthand codes indicating that characters generally have some of the following characteristics: they oppose evil, respect life, defend the innocent, and sometimes make personal sacrifices to aid others. In contrast, characters with evil alignments have no qualms about killing innocents and sacrificing others as a means to achieving their own goals. The alignment rules are indeed part of the game, and they should not be ignored, but they need not spoil your fun. GMs and players should discuss alignment’s role in the campaign, making sure that all agree or understand how the system works within the game, how much alignment will be stressed, and what its ultimate role is in the game. In such conversations, your GM may want to provide a procedure for changing or deviating from an alignment and for any character effects that might result from doing so, particularly in regard to paladins or monks.
The following sections present several examples of each of the good alignments, showing that characters need not be cookie-cutter versions of each other but rather can include a variety of opportunities for roleplaying. Additionally, they detail significant advantages and challenges for each of the alignments, while discussing character possibilities and ways to deal with moral quandaries. versus its actual text. Or perhaps you believe one’s own daily life should be planned and controlled to the tiniest detail—you have your daily rituals, and these cannot be disrupted. Order in life leads to a clear, peaceful mind.
If you want to take on the role of a good character, you can make your job easier by planting a strong motivation at your character’s core. The following ideals can help define your good character’s personality and guide her actions.
Use the following motivations to help focus your character’s purpose in the game and build your champion into a world-renowned hero. Then consult the appropriate alignment section in the pages that follow to see how you can differentiate your character from other individuals of the same alignment.
Equality: No individual is better than any other.
Freedom: People are meant to be free. Nothing incites your ire like witnessing slavers buy and sell others, hearing stories about raiders kidnapping people to bring them to market in other lands, or learning about leaders who subject their people to harsh treatment or impose severe restrictions on their people’s liberties. You abhor slavery in all its aspects, and seek to release the downtrodden from dictatorial rulers and eradicate the slave trade—or at least disrupt and curb it where you can.
- Honor: The true measure of a person is her honor, how she responds and acts, whether in the midst of war or in everyday matters. You follow a strict code of behavior that guides your path in this world, and you expect others to do likewise. While your strong sense of honor may lead you to be a cavalier or paladin, you could just as easily be a wizard with a code of honor regarding magical duels—or maybe there is honor among thieves, and you are a rogue who regulates the thieves’ guilds, ensuring only those who abuse the less fortunate with their excessive wealth are relieved of it.
- Justice: It is important to you that others receive the punishment they deserve for wrongdoings, and the law must be fair to all. You might fight to protect the civil rights accorded under the law, tangling with politicians who seek to disregard or outright abuse them. Or you might make it your goal to hunt down wanted individuals and groups, returning them to face their just punishment in a court of law. You insist on capturing such individuals and bringing them to justice, though you may also see yourself as the hand that metes out deserved punishments.
- Mercy: You believe all beings should be treated with compassion, even if they are transgressors. For instance, you would rather imprison a murderer than kill him outright for his crimes. Also, you do not believe in exterminating the offspring of wicked creatures when they are encountered, as you believe the innocent young should not be punished for the crimes of their elders. Instead, you might seek to find a place for them to be taken in.
- Order: Good can only be achieved through order, no matter what other philosophies espouse. In this regard, you might hold laws to be absolutely necessary for the good of all, and refuse to participate in actions that would bring you into conflict with the law. The law is black and white, so you brook no conversations regarding its spirit
- Security/Safety: You grew up in a contended area, and you learned early on that security and safety were paramount to your community. You have dedicated yourself to ensuring and defending the safety of others ever since. In addition to protecting them in times of need, you might help train a village’s militia, assist in building walls, and provide tactical advice to leaders of such communities.
In many games, playing good characters is the norm. However, some GMs like to interject ethical quandaries into the game from time to time to keep players on their toes and to test their characters’ resolve—and because real life isn’t always so cut and dry, why should your fantasy campaign be? This section presents a few topics that often rear their heads during the course of play as elements for your consideration. You may want to discuss some of the following quandaries with your GM and other players. This will allow you to see where everyone stands in regard to the idea of alignment.
If complicated ethics that challenge a character’s concept or force her to make difficult moral decisions is an element of play you would rather avoid, discussing this with your GM is important. It makes for a better game when everyone knows the expected boundaries in terms of what is considered fun. Some players, in fact, do not want to have anything that too closely resembles real life appearing in their fantasy games! Decide together what your group considers to be fair game.
One of the many quandaries good-aligned characters face during their adventuring careers is what to do about the progeny of evil humanoids. For example, shortly into their adventures, an adventuring party encounters a group of goblins who have been raiding a village, leaving a swath of death and destruction in their wake. The PCs track them to some caves and kill them—but the dead goblins leave behind babies. What should the PCs do with those? Kill them? Leave them be? What is the best and most appropriate thing for a good character to do in this situation? Just as there are varying good alignments, there are different solutions to this problem. One good character might believe the children are not inherently evil, that their behavior is learned, and round up the young ones to take them to a higher power like a church, a monastery, or an orphanage set up to deal with the issue of raising humanoid children. Alternatively, he might decide to raise them himself! This could be viewed as the most saintly thing to do. Another character might decide not to do anything, leaving the children to the whims of nature—either the children will survive in the wild on their own, or they will not. Lastly, a good character who believes the younglings can never overcome their innate evil might kill them all outright, viewing the action as good, just, and the most merciful option.
Another quandary might be the presence of a party member or strong, supporting ally who is actually evil. For instance, can the party’s paladin continue to work with the evil wizard in the group, or is it morally wrong to do so? This situation would certainly disquiet the paladin, but rather than refusing to work with the wizard, she could insist on trying to reform the person, who must surely have some ounce of goodness in him if he continues to aid the group. It might become her goal to bring this individual to the light, and she could work tirelessly to make it happen. Non-paladin members of the group, depending upon their fervor toward goodness, might choose to ignore the issue entirely, unless the evil character does something overtly harmful to the group or an innocent person. Otherwise, they might accept him more as “neutral” until he shows his true colors, whether or not a detection of his true alignment indicates otherwise.
Nations often run the gamut from benevolent fledgling democracies to brutal and tyrannical dictatorships. Characters can find their origins in any of these nations, and while it often makes sense for a good character to come from one of the more virtuous countries, it’s equally reasonable that a good character was born in a bad place. Growing up in conflict with your homeland can lead to interesting situations and provide a compelling background for a good character, particularly one driven to bring good into the world and improve the situations of oppressed or tormented fellow citizens.
More than any other character class, paladins face challenges in dealing with moral quandaries and shades of gray because of their alignment and code of honor. Those playing paladins should not be fearful of these ethical dilemmas; instead, such moral issues should be viewed as opportunities to open a dialogue with the Gamemaster to discuss the nature of the paladin’s code and how it would affect her role in the situation at hand. The GM, likewise, should take the time to fully explain what might cause the character to lose her special abilities or force her to seek atonement. The GM and the player should also discuss how and if the GM will warn her in future gaming sessions if her actions warrant repercussions. A quick and easy solution to this potential problem is the oft-overlooked phylactery of faithfulness. This inexpensive magic item (1,000 gp) gives the wearer a way to keep her behavior in check, providing a clear indicator of whether she is straying from her faith or is about to engage in immoral behavior. This simple item has prevented many a paladin’s fall.
A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. She combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. She tells the truth, keeps her word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished.
Lawful good combines honor with compassion.
Lawful good characters are proficient at understanding bureaucracies, following laws, and cultivating order and structure in their own lives and in others’. They are naturally helpful, and others find them trustworthy, even if they don’t share the same alignment. Additionally, lawful good characters are adept at deciding which actions are lawful and benefit society rather than the individual. With their focus on order, they can often build governmental stability where none previously existed. These characters sometimes have problems defying laws, even when the laws are unjust. Instead of disobeying or protesting against such laws, they work within the provided structure or system to change those laws, and they implore others to do so as well. They feel guilty lying to others, even if only asked to fib to provide a ruse for their companions. Similarly, they won’t break the law to help good-intentioned party members perform actions that might have beneficial results.
When they’re adventuring in urban areas with their companions, lawful good characters may feel compelled to excuse themselves from certain plans or attempt to reason with those more lenient in their interpretation of the law. It’s much easier for lawful good characters to ignore the bad behavior of other party members when exploring ruins and wilderness areas outside the direct jurisdiction of a governing body.
Lawful good characters regard law as necessary for the welfare of society. They fight to abolish or change laws they deem unjust, and they always aid those in need. Lawful good characters strive to be forthright in their words and deeds, refuse to lie to others, and keep their covenants. They oppose evil wherever it is found, and avoid putting the good of the individual ahead of what is good for the masses. For these characters, the end rarely justifies the means. Characters drawn to honor, righting wrongs, or making sacrifices for others might be attracted to this alignment.
The character class most often associated with the lawful good alignment is the paladin, but this alignment may also include monks, who are always lawful. With a few exceptions, the other character classes allow for any alignment. However, playing a lawful good rogue—though feasible via the game’s rules—may be challenging. Such a character would, however, be a good addition to a law enforcement body as an investigator, or might travel as a scout or spy for a military or knightly order. She might also be a trustworthy appropriator of treasures lost in the depths of old ruins.
Social Order: Bringing peace and order to a community or nation should be a paramount ideal to a lawful good character. Settling conflict and establishing a fair body of laws may be more often associated with politicians, legislators, and barristers, but an adventurer can pursue those ideals as well. Whether she focuses on keeping the peace or fighting against those who seek to upset the traditions of a particular society, an adventurer in an urban environment can instill the principles of a lawful good alignment in its people.
Lawful good characters vary widely, especially in terms of their zeal for their beliefs. Some may be fanatical examples of the alignment, while others apply these ideals more loosely in their lives. The following examples showcase just a few of the possible approaches to this alignment.
Builder characters believe in the importance of close-knit families and strong communities, and they teach others to be self-sufficient. Builders revere order and law, regarding these concepts as the answer to all of civilization’s problems; for them, a strong, benevolent government is what allows civilizations to thrive. Builders often assist in creating actual structures and items as a part of community’s attempt to improve members’ quality of life.
If you are a builder, you:
- Strive for order and organization.
- View strong government as necessary for civilization’s cultivation, and strong families and communities as the building blocks of successful settlements.
- Use your creativity and skills to teach others how to improve their lives and communities, and gladly offer your assistance when others are moved to create order and structure.
Code: You bring order to society through your creations, whether material or philosophical.
Crusaders endeavor to stamp out the presence of evil wherever it arises. These just, strong individuals spend their lives in pursuit of such heroic endeavors, tenaciously taking the fight to the root of evil in an attempt to eradicate it. Crusaders seek honor, valor, and glory in their pursuit of evil, and willingly sacrifice themselves in their efforts to destroy their targets.
If you are a crusader, you:
- Abhor evil in all its aspects.
- Are motivated to right wrongs and to stamp out evil and injustice.
- Seek honor and glory through your actions, and suffer death over accepting dishonor.
Code: You are honorable and risk your life to eradicate the evil threatening your lands or the lives of those you’ve vowed to protect.
Guardians respect life and believe there is no greater duty or higher calling than protecting the lives of innocents and those who are too venerable to protect themselves. These brave, unwavering individuals gladly risk life and limb in defending whoever or whatever they have vowed to protect, whether it’s a city, village, fortress wall, or even a strategic pass. They willingly sacrifice themselves to the last soul to carry out their duty, and they find their honor, valor, and glory in defense rather than in taking the battle to others. When not actively involved in protecting their charge, they spend their time teaching defensive tactics and skills to those willing to learn.
If you are a guardian, you:
- Protect the lives of others at your own risk.
- Are motivated to protect the weak and the innocent.
- Improve the tactics and defensive skills of those you aid.
Code: You risk your life to protect the lives and well-being of others.
A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them.
Neutral good means doing what is good and right without bias for or against order.
Neutral good characters excel at seeing both sides of a situation, and they use this ability to inform their actions, doing what they believe will produce the most good. These characters seek balance and harmony in their dealings with others; they know to avoid conversations leading to heated topics, and keep their responses to the middle of the road. They understand the value of nature, and realize that expanding civilization into the wilderness is not always the most appropriate thing to do. Because of their ability to see all facets of a situation, neutral good characters can sometimes have difficulty in choosing a side between other good beings. For this reason, others may label them as wishy-washy or not capable of serious conviction.
Dealing with other characters aligned along the lawful-chaotic axis can also be challenging, especially in mixed-alignment adventuring groups. The neutral good characters will not always agree with the lawful good characters’ meticulous need to plan their actions, control others, or prevent others from disobeying laws that interfere with the party’s goals—sometimes less-than-honest tactics are necessary, after all. Conversely, neutral good characters might find chaotic good characters a little on the uncontrollable side, not liking the wild bent of their ideas or actions. Too much freedom of thought and action, they believe, just makes one irresponsible.
Neutral good characters can see both sides of the lawful-chaotic axis, understanding that some choices are indeed better for all, and others are better for individuals. Because supporting either extreme on the axis does not motivate them, neutral good characters are often considered the “true good” alignment. They seek to do the most good in the world to make it a better place and to help others when possible. Neither anarchy nor the need for strict order concerns them. Neutral good characters support laws that benefit all, but have no qualms about ignoring unjust laws or tyrannical rulers.
Neutral good characters give great consideration to their actions before deeming them correct; some neutral good characters find it unfathomable that others cannot see their viewpoint as the most sensible.
Neutral good is an alignment common to the druid class, who must select any neutral alignment. Neutral good serves as an effective alignment for most any class, except the monk and paladin, who must be lawful.
Exploration and Preservation: Neutral frontier lands can hold significant interest for characters of this alignment. This is a great stepping-stone for characters wanting to do good, preserve beautiful works of art and history, and make names for themselves.
Peace, Redemption, and Refuge: Neutral good characters might find hotbeds of chaos ripe for intervention in the form of redemption and mediation.
Neutral good characters vary widely, especially in terms of their zeal for their beliefs. Some may be fanatical examples of the alignment, while others apply these ideals more loosely in their lives. They find slavery, whether legal or not, abhorrent, and may make it their goal to destroy such institutions wherever they find them. The following examples showcase just a few of the possible approaches to this alignment.
Healers value life, seeing beauty and good in all living creatures. Healers offer their curative powers to those in need, regardless of their patients’ alignment, believing it’s their duty to use their skills and magic to maintain the purity of life itself. As life is all-important to them, they take oaths never to do harm to others or to take lives; when forced to fight, they protect themselves, but tend to employ abilities that hamper or entrap their enemies rather than killing them outright. After all, every being’s life is important to the universe, and the loss of any soul is a true tragedy to healers. If you are a healer, you:
- Value life above all else.
- Use your curative knowledge and abilities to heal the sick and wounded.
- Fight defensively, and only to capture or weaken opponents.
Code: You seek to maintain the life and health of others, and do not take others’ lives.
It is not possible for all members of a community to have their way; life is all about compromise, and mediators specialize in steering rational individuals to agreeable terms and favorable outcomes. When things go badly or they must deal with hostile people, mediators do not rashly pull their weapons on others, but instead offer alternative options for resolution through diplomacy or intimidation. Of course, many creatures lack enlightenment, and thus don’t accept compromise. When words fall on deaf ears, mediators resort to weapons to win the day.
If you are a mediator, you:
- Value balance and peaceful, beneficial resolutions.
- Are motivated by the desire to keep the peace and diffuse conflict.
- Attempt to use your wisdom and charisma when dealing with non-evil creatures.
Code: When conflict arises between reasonable creatures of either axis of your alignment, you offer your diplomatic skills to accomplish compromise or agreement.
Redeemers believe that with a few exceptions, most beings are capable of goodness. Beings not following the path of light need only be given a chance to renounce their wayward behavior and be enlightened to the true path of goodness, thus allowing them to redeem their souls and atone for their vile deeds. Redeemers believe in patience, knowing old habits are hard to break. Of course, those who refuse proffered redemption opportunities must not be allowed to continue along their destructive paths, so redeemers must permanently prevent them from doing further harm. If you are a redeemer, you:
- Value life and are patient.
- Are motivated to bring others into the light, believing they deserve a second chance.
- Are willing to kill those who refuse redemption.
Code: The lost can be returned to the light if given the chance; you must offer it and show them the way.
A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he’s kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society.
Chaotic good combines a good heart with a free spirit.
Chaotic good characters follow their own consciences and are adaptable, easily rolling with life’s punches. They rarely make plans too far in advance, preferring to take a wait-and-see approach to most things, which allows them to adjust their actions or reactions in a single heartbeat. They have no qualms about breaking laws, especially when doing so will save others or protect others’ rights from being trampled. Chaotic good characters want freedom for themselves and others, and find it difficult to live in societies they deem too restrictive to individuals. They view laws and regulations as unneeded mechanisms of control rather than protection. Deeply inherent in the chaotic good character’s philosophy is the belief that most individuals are good and will do good if given the freedom to act as they please. In this regard, these benevolent, kind-hearted individuals can be viewed as the most idealistic of the good alignments. Other good characters call their live-and-let-live attitude overly idealistic, instead believing that individuals are more selfish than kindhearted in nature and need guidance to become good. The chaotic good philosophy, however, holds that because individuals are not all like-minded persons, imposing such guidance and laws to force them to conform to a single mold deforms their spirits, creating flaws and cracks where evil can more easily find a foothold.
Chaotic good characters are strong-willed and self-directed—masters of their own destiny. They act as their consciences dictate, viewing the plights of the weak and innocent with compassion and correcting injustices when they can. Chaotic good characters disregard others’ expectations of their behavior, finding many laws and regulations too limiting to their personal freedom. They resent those who inflict their ideals on others, especially through intimidation, and are often reluctant to conform. Chaotic good characters want the freedom to do as they will and desire others to be free of oppression as well.
While chaotic good characters do not accept that individuals must sacrifice their ideals and follow laws for the good of the whole, they willingly sacrifice themselves (and their individuality) to protect the whole in the name of good.
Chaotic good is not an alignment embedded in any particular character class, though it can be an excellent one for barbarian characters, who must avoid lawful alignments. The most difficult character class to portray with a chaotic good alignment might be the cavalier, as cavaliers are tied to teamwork by the nature of their combat skills and must follow an order as well. Such knights, however, could serve as effective freedom fighters and leaders in the fight for liberty.
Racial Allies: Chaotic good characters might find allies among the elves and half-elves, with whom they share not only an alignment (generally speaking), but also a curiosity about life and a zeal to forge their own paths in the world. This tendency is even stronger in the case of half-elves, who often find themselves without a unified homeland and feel they must create their own destinies. Elves are more commonly found in the wilderness, making it reasonable that they could be useful allies for druid and ranger characters. Chaotic good characters might also find allies among aasimars who tend toward chaos, or perhaps even among the rare but free-willed catfolk.
Chaotic good characters vary widely, especially in terms of their zeal for their beliefs. Some chaotic good characters seem to be fanatical examples of their alignment, while others apply these ideals more loosely in their lives. These carefree souls follow their own whims and pleasures, harming no one unless their personal sense of justice is inflamed. They find slavery an utter abomination, and fight against all instances of it they encounter. The following examples showcase just a few of the possible approaches to this alignment.
Activists ensure others question and reflect upon the origin of beliefs and knowledge, both their own and that of others. They do not do so out of malice or a desire to disrupt others’ thoughts, but rather out of a duty to help others realize their true selves—a person cannot truly be a free person until her thoughts and beliefs are, in fact, her own, not the rote drivel instilled by those wanting a society of faithful sheep. If you are an activist, you:
- Value questioning the establishment.
- Are motivated to “awaken” other free thinkers.
- Are a seeker of knowledge and truth.
- Live life without restricting others.
Code: You want others to question what they know, ensuring each individual is truly living honestly and thinking for himself.
Freedom fighters believe no one should suffer the indignity of slavery or be forced to serve a government that rejects or ignores the rights of its people. Everyone is born free and should remain so. Liberty is the right of all, and tyrants and slavers must be thwarted or eradicated by any means necessary. Freedom fighters spread their ideals in hopes of inspiring others to wage war against slavers and oppressors.
If you are a freedom fighter, you:
- Value freedom and liberty for all.
- Are motivated to eradicate slavery.
- Ensure laws do not restrict individuals’ rights.
Code: You find tyranny and slavery the most intolerable crimes in existence, and you long to free every man, woman, and child from their grip.
Vigilantes believe those individuals enforcing the laws of the land are too lazy or uncaring to effectively punish evildoers, or that their hands are tied by the law. Therefore, vigilantes step forward to deliver justice to wrongdoers, serving as both judge and punisher for thieves, thugs, and murderers. When their prey happens to be slavers or violent oppressors, vigilantes sometimes cross paths with freedom fighters. For vigilantes, justice must be delivered at all costs, and they risk their own lives to keep the lives of innocents safe and secure.
If you are a vigilante, you:
- Value the justice delivered by your own hand.
- Are motivated to punish evildoers.
- Disregard laws to bring about your own justice, and are, therefore, often a wanted individual.
Code: You risk limb and life to bring wrongdoers to justice for their crimes, and in doing so, make life better for others.
A lawful neutral character acts as law, tradition, or a personal code directs her. Order and organization are paramount. She may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or she may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government.
Lawful neutral means you are reliable and honorable without being a zealot.
A neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. She doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos (and thus neutral is sometimes called “true neutral”). Most neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character probably thinks of good as better than evil—after all, she would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, she’s not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way.
Some neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run.
Neutral means you act naturally in any situation, without prejudice or compulsion.
A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn’t strive to protect others’ freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those others suffer). a chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as he is to cross it.
Chaotic neutral represents freedom from both society’s restrictions and a do-gooder’s zeal.
A lawful evil villain methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his code of conduct without regard for whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty, and order, but not about freedom, dignity, or life. He plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion. He is comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but is willing to serve. He condemns others not according to their actions but according to race, religion, homeland, or social rank. He is loath to break laws or promises.
This reluctance comes partly from his nature and partly because he depends on order to protect himself from those who oppose him on moral grounds. Some lawful evil villains have particular taboos, such as not killing in cold blood (but having underlings do it) or not letting children come to harm (if it can be helped). They imagine that these compunctions put them above unprincipled villains.
Some lawful evil people and creatures commit themselves to evil with a zeal like that of a crusader committed to good. Beyond being willing to hurt others for their own ends, they take pleasure in spreading evil as an end unto itself. They may also see doing evil as part of a duty to an evil deity or master.
Lawful evil represents methodical, intentional, and organized evil.
Lawful evil characters believe that law and structure mean power and safety. In their view, a strict, systematic hierarchy enables outcomes impossible for a single individual, so they seek power and security by positioning themselves advantageously within such systems. They may operate according to strict personal codes—private ethics or creeds that may not align with an observer’s concept of morality—but more often choose to operate within (and take advantage of ) the framework of the society around them. Many are quick to cite their law-abiding natures when defending their actions. This alignment is particularly appealing to those who want to get ahead and don’t care whom they hurt, yet who also want to maintain a sense of self-righteousness or don’t want to open themselves up to unnecessary risk. They may take great pride in never breaking their word—and thus rarely make promises—and are invariably methodical and organized in their machinations.
Lawful evil characters appear on every rung of the social ladder. Some seek desperately to climb the ladder, dreaming of doing unto others what has been done to them.
Others feel smug superiority toward the less fortunate and enjoy abusing their power and privilege.
Following are some common lawful evil personality archetypes.
Destined to rule—at least in their own minds—despots seek to impose their will on those around them.
Obedience is often not enough; a despot requires total submission. Despots are capable of collaboration and even subordination within a larger structure, but they usually get resentful if they don’t climb the ranks quickly enough, and they seek out opportunities to give orders instead of taking them. Rarely, despots actually enjoy sharing power with like-minded souls; more often, their alliances are of convenience, and a pact’s stability depends on whether the despot’s goals are being met. While all despots believe themselves to be great leaders, not all are; dark tragicomedy abounds when incompetent despots achieve even a small measure of power.
If you are a despot, you:
- Demand blind obedience and servility.
- Welcome neither questions nor failures from your underlings.
- Constantly seek to expand your personal power base.
Code: Your commands are law—and woe betide those who disobey.
The world is a dangerous and confusing place, filled with overwhelmingly powerful entities. Thankfully, sometimes those beings take lucky souls under their wings, offering protection, purpose, and perhaps permission to indulge aspects of oneself that society otherwise prohibits.
Whether the patron is a god, monster, nation, or mortal, the minion knows that loyalty and perfect service—no matter how distasteful or depraved the command—are the best ways to rise in the ranks and achieve comfort and security. Minions may take pride in their service or comfort in the fact that any responsibility for their actions ultimately lies with their masters. Total devotion is a small price to pay for the gifts these dark masters offer.
If you are a minion, you:
- Seek powerful figures to serve and obey.
- Avoid anything that might raise questions about your loyalty.
- Live to please your master, regardless of the harm to yourself or anyone else.
Code: Be an obedient and useful servant, and your master will take care of you.
Swindlers accumulate power through indirect means. By using deception and manipulation, and by exploiting the systems they inhabit, they gain personal advantage. Their most common method is brokering deals and contracts that seek to extract the maximum commitment from others while giving as little away as possible themselves. While driving a hard bargain is not itself evil, swindlers specifically prey on those at their most vulnerable, abusing the legal system and doing their best to exploit (or create) weakness.
Loopholes and plausible deniability are a swindler’s bread and butter, and most have legitimate business concerns to augment their extortion and entrapment. Often charming, always cunning, swindlers are experts at using people’s own desires against them.
If you are a swindler, you:
- Look for exploits, loopholes, and advantages in every interaction and institution.
- Rarely break the law—working around it is so much more elegant.
- Are exceptionally proud of your wits and cunning.
Code: Anyone who shows weakness deserves to have it exploited.
Lawful evil characters are often surprisingly good at working with others, as long as doing so suits their agenda.
Their organized minds excel at spotting ways to make a situation work for them, and they usually recognize that most systems require give and take between the various components. They tend to honor at least the letter of their agreements, and many lawful evil characters are capable of a cold self-discipline that lets them rein in unproductive traits when necessary.
At the same time, lawful evil characters who see weakness in their companions are often quick to capitalize on it, making them potential liabilities in combat. They may be unwilling to risk themselves for a cause or partner, or to bend to group decisions if they feel doing so places them at a disadvantage. Self-interest is the driving force for most lawful evil characters—even minions.
Lawful classes like the monk, samurai, and cavalier all have evil members, but perhaps the class most suited to lawful evil is the cleric. A witch’s relationship to her patron and familiar and a summoner’s to his eidolon can take on similar overtones at a smaller scale. Unethical wizards are also often drawn to lawful evil—the intellectual rigor of complex studies meshes well with a lawful disposition, and their pursuit of knowledge may lure them into deviant experimentation. And of course, while many people think of rogues as freewheeling criminals, some of the most effective masterminds and string-pullers are rogues and bards who abuse the law without breaking it.
One risk of an evil campaign is that the characters’ selfishness can erode the team bond. Yet selfishness can also help characters overcome their differences, even across alignments.
Lawful evil characters who operate in groups usually focus on mutual self-interest. To them, other characters are resources, and no tool should be discarded out of hand if it can still be of use. For instance, chaotic characters may be messy, undisciplined wretches, but if a lawful evil character can channel that scattered energy into something productive, everyone can benefit. Good characters may be sanctimonious or sentimental, but as long as the evil they’re stomping out is an evil that stands in your way, you have every reason to help them.
A wise lawful evil character doesn’t care about motives, only outcomes. By properly framing decisions for your allies and knowing how to manipulate them, you can point them in a direction that aids your objectives. And in the end, a lawful evil character doesn’t need to have a problem with other characters succeeding—as long as she succeeds the most.
A neutral evil villain does whatever she can get away with. She is out for herself, pure and simple. She sheds no tears for those she kills, whether for profit, sport, or convenience. She has no love of order and holds no illusions that following laws, traditions, or codes would make her any better or more noble. On the other hand, she doesn’t have the restless nature or love of conflict that a chaotic evil villain has.
Some neutral evil villains hold up evil as an ideal, committing evil for its own sake. Most often, such villains are devoted to evil deities or secret societies.
Neutral evil represents pure evil without honor and without variation.
Neutral evil characters care only for themselves, and do whatever they think they can get away with. They place no stock in the ability of laws or codes to protect them, and thus don’t bother to follow them. At the same time, they’re less spontaneous and prone to whimsy than chaotic evil characters. In some ways, neutral evil is the purest form of evil, unburdened by any other tropes or tendencies. Whether a neutral evil character has chosen to practice evil for its own sake or—more often—simply has no empathy for others, the result is the same: cold, unfeeling cruelty.
Those who care nothing for others or the pain they cause, or who strive toward such indifference, are drawn to this alignment.
Neutral evil characters are not necessarily enthusiastic murderers—it’s so messy and causes so much potential trouble—but they rarely have qualms with the deed itself.
They are fundamentally interested only in themselves and their own dark desires and tastes. Other people are insects, tools, toys, or simply objects in their way.
Nothing matters. Entropy and chaos have created a world where nothing lasts, nothing means anything, and even the greatest works or truths will fall to dust and obscurity in the blink of an eye. You know that those who claim otherwise do themselves and everyone else a disservice, and you cannot abide anyone who perpetuates society’s great lies of love and meaning. Instead, you choose to reveal their willful ignorance by furthering the cause of destruction. The world offends you, and thus you will bring it down.
If you are an annihilist, you:
- Have no feelings or scruples, or aspire to have none.
- See entropy and death everywhere, and accept (and inflict) them as the true pillars of reality.
- Despise anything that aspires to permanence, growth, or meaning.
Code: Everything crumbles. Who are you to argue with that?
Narcissists see meaning and beauty in the world—but only when they look in a mirror. For narcissists, the world truly does revolve around them:
whatever makes them unhappy is a tragic injustice, and whatever pleases them is theirs by divine right.
Narcissists can be genuinely bewildered—or homicidally enraged—by suggestions that anyone else’s concerns take precedence over theirs. The narcissist differs from the lawful evil tyrant in that he has no particular need for power or authority, so long as all his whims are catered to without question. It’s only when those whims are denied that the true, uncaring evil of the narcissist rears its bloody head.
If you are a narcissist, you:
- See everything in terms of its effect on you.
- Are surprised, shocked, or disgusted when the world or other people don’t cater to your expectations.
- Are incapable of empathizing with others and can justify just about any horrific actions that serve your greater purpose.
Code: The universe knows what you want, so what does it expect when it doesn’t it give it to you?
Psychopaths are individuals who, for whatever reason, are unable to feel empathy and remorse, leading them to indulge in uninhibitedly antisocial behavior. A psychopath may or may not understand that others have feelings, but either way is unable to relate to other creatures. Other people are objects to them—sometimes amusing and sometimes useful, but always disposable.
If you are a psychopath, you:
- Never feel remorse or empathy.
- Indulge your whims in bold, often horrific ways.
- Know that all living things—even other people—are just objects.
Code: Do anything you want. Anything.
Neutral evil characters embody pure selfishness. That single-minded dedication to themselves typically makes their inner lives very straightforward. Many strongly neutral evil characters are emotionless and affectless, sometimes to a terrifying degree, which further focuses their mental resources on getting what they want, and can make them experts at whatever interests them. If their lack of inhibition manifests as admirable boldness and fearlessness, they may become master infiltrators and manipulators.
Almost any adventuring class can be neutral evil—killing people and taking their stuff is central to the job, and fewer scruples mean more opportunities. This is particularly true of rogues and ninjas, with their specialties in lying, sneaking, stealing, and backstabbing, but rangers, with their gift for patient predation and dedicated hate, and alchemists (especially poisoners) also make great choices for neutral evil characters.
Provided neutral evil characters are getting what they want, they have no problem working with anyone else.
They can even be trustworthy for extended periods of time when a larger goal is at stake or their interests or goals overlap with others’. If someone pleases them and seems nonthreatening, they may look after that person, possibly even becoming protective, though with a tendency toward possessiveness.
Neutral evil characters tend to project their own extreme selfishness onto others, which can be corrosive to trust. This selfishness and paranoia, plus the universal mortal tendency to be more conscious of one’s own efforts than other people’s, means that neutral evil characters can come to feel that a perfectly fair deal is in fact weighted against them. More intelligent neutral evil characters may be able to resist this cognitive bias, but it can be a serious impediment to long-term collaboration.
Neutral evil characters often work willingly with lawful evil or chaotic evil types, covertly regarding both the orderly and the wild with a slightly bemused condescension, except when these allies’ behavior interferes with business. When working with neutral or good characters, neutral evil characters are generally careful to keep their vicious sides hidden except when necessary—or when they know they can get away with it.
A chaotic evil character does what his greed, hatred, and lust for destruction drive him to do. He is vicious, arbitrarily violent, and unpredictable. If he is simply out for whatever he can get, he is ruthless and brutal. If he is committed to the spread of evil and chaos, he is even worse. Thankfully, his plans are haphazard, and any groups he joins or forms are likely to be poorly organized. Typically, chaotic evil people can be made to work together only by force, and their leader lasts only as long as he can thwart attempts to topple or assassinate him.
Chaotic evil represents the destruction not only of beauty and life, but also of the order on which beauty and life depend.
Chaotic evil characters live at the mercy of their own toxic passions. Their goals and methods may change on a whim, and they often crave novelty and variety in their lives.
While still capable of planning, they may have a hard time with patient, long-term scheming, preferring immediate satisfaction and direct action. For some, spreading chaos and destruction is a deliberate goal, yet more often chaotic evil characters are those who simply don’t care whom their desires may hurt. They may see a certain nobility in their refusal to be bound by any conventions or creeds, or they may simply indulge their greed, hatred, and lust with no thought to the consequences. They may be emotionally or mentally unstable, letting their inner turmoil and turbulence spill out uncontrollably into others’ lives. Yet, they need not be insane—their savagery can be deliberate and intentional, unleashed in carefully directed and rationed bursts.
Serial killers, demon cultists, arsonists, dangerous hedonists, and others lured to atrocity by passion are drawn to this alignment.
Some chaotic evil characters have coherent philosophies or ideas that guide their actions. However, many—if not most—are driven from within by strong, usually poisonous and unpredictable emotions. Below are some of the more common chaotic evil personality types.
Just as some people find solace in upholding order and justice, some swear allegiance to their opposites—the chaos and entropy that eventually grind everything to dust. Whether these devotees are antipaladins, cultists of demon lords, or those who simply feel that the world deserves to be burned down, devotees seek to foster chaos and evil not just for personal gain, but for chaos and evil’s own sake. Some believe that the world must be destroyed in order to be rebuilt into something better, or see themselves as a necessary part of an eternal struggle—for light requires darkness to give it contrast. More often, they devote themselves out of a desire to gain power from an evil and chaotic entity, or to impose revenge on a world they feel has wronged them.
If you are a devotee, you:
- Deliberately sow chaos and pain for their own sakes, rather than to obtain personal reward.
- May worship a demon lord or another personification of chaos and evil.
- Find spiritual satisfaction in destruction.
Code: Chaos is the true nature of existence, and it will eventually reclaim its own, so you help it along.
Furies are driven by a rage so consuming that it can never be satisfied. For some, this rage is birthed from a truly horrific past—perhaps one in which they suffered at the hands of another fury. In other cases, it is caused by disgust or despair ignited after witnessing too much depravity. In still others, the cause is simply a sense of stymied entitlement, or even a natural disposition untempered by reason. Not all furies are immediately identifiable as such—some bank their anger, burning slow but hot, and can conceal their temperaments and their actions, corrupting and undermining rather than rampaging. They may find justifications for their rage in the failings (real or imagined) of others, or they may not feel a need to justify themselves at all. Regardless of their motives, a festering, white-hot fever of rage is at the heart of all they do.
If you are a fury, you:
- Are prone to outbursts of violence—whether physical, verbal, or psychological.
- Often redirect anger toward convenient targets, punishing innocents for minor offenses.
- Feel empowered and invigorated when unleashing your anger, and may see patience and calm as weaknesses.
Code: If you hurt them, they must have deserved it.
To evil hedonists, nothing matters except personal pleasure, and it’s only natural and right to grab as much of it as they can. Any consequences are secondary, if they are considered at all. Classic evil hedonists live in the moment and take what they want by force. These are the people who burn down a city because their hands are cold, or kill a family just to steal their horse. While other personality types may have a greater sense of entitlement, hedonists are characterized by their unwillingness to restrict themselves unnecessarily—and to a hedonist, all restrictions seem unnecessary.
If you are a hedonist, you:
- Follow your whims and passions, regardless of the potential consequences.
- May get bored easily and seek out ever-greater taboos to break.
- Have disproportionate responses to irritation.
Code: Because you felt like it, that’s why.
Whether because they act on every whim, or because they take monstrous shortcuts in pursuit of their goals, chaotic evil characters can be hard to upper hand, making it difficult for rivals and enemies to gain the initiative against them. Their vicious passions may or may not be worn on their sleeves, but even when they’re working in arrangements that are generally favorable to them, few chaotic evil characters can tolerate structure or self-control for long periods without lashing out or breaking the rules. Those who rule over chaotic evil creatures must usually do so with an iron fist, as many such creatures can be controlled only with violence and threats.
For all that, lack of reflection and an over-reliance on emotions when making decisions can make some chaotic evil characters easy to manipulate for those (usually evil) characters who can get inside their heads. When properly harnessed, their savage destruction can be extremely useful, a tidal wave unleashed on command by their masters.
Antipaladins, as unholy counterparts to paladins, must be chaotic evil. Barbarians (whose strength is fueled by wrath) are good choices for classic out-of-control, animalistic butchers; inquisitors with the destruction judgment or magi could work well, too. Bards and oracles are well placed to play more insidious, corrupting, or maddening roles, whether as royal advisors or demagogues.
The process by which a chaotic evil character selects allies is often a mystery to others—and perhaps even to the characters themselves—but often boils down to an instinctive sense of who’s likely to provide support and entertainment without overly restricting them. They may choose allies they perceive as weaker and thus unable to effectively challenge their decisions, or they may be temporarily cowed into serving those who pose too great a threat to ignore.
While in working relationships with equals, chaotic evil characters may seem to be ever on the verge of betrayal, or at least ready to abandon their partners to pursue their own interests. However, some of these partnerships prove surprisingly stable, as the chaotic evil character may want to avoid the inconvenience and frustration of finding new partners. These allies need not be evil, either—a chaotic evil character is perhaps the least likely to judge others for their alignment (or indeed, pay attention to their companions’ morality at all).
Alignment is a tool, a convenient shorthand you can use to summarize the general attitude of an NPC, region, religion, organization, monster, or even magic item.
Certain character classes list repercussions for those who don’t adhere to a specific alignment, and some spells and magic items have different effects on targets depending on alignment, but beyond that it’s generally not necessary to worry too much about whether someone is behaving differently from his stated alignment. In the end, the Game Master is the one who gets to decide if something’s in accordance with its indicated alignment, based on the descriptions given previously and his own opinion and interpretation—the only thing the GM needs to strive for is to be consistent as to what constitutes the difference between alignments like chaotic neutral and chaotic evil. There’s no hard and fast mechanic by which you can measure alignment—unlike hit points or skill ranks or armor class, alignment is solely a label the GM controls.
It’s best to let players play their characters as they want. If a player is roleplaying in a way that you, as the GM, think doesn’t fit his alignment, let him know that he’s acting out of alignment and tell him why—but do so in a friendly manner. If a character wants to change his alignment, let him—in most cases, this should amount to little more than a change of personality, or in some cases, no change at all if the alignment change was more of an adjustment to more accurately summarize how a player, in your opinion, is portraying his character. In some cases, changing alignments can impact a character’s abilities. An atonement spell may be necessary to repair damage done by alignment changes arising from involuntary sources or momentary lapses in personality.
Players who frequently have their characters change alignment should in all likelihood be playing chaotic neutral characters.
Alignment shifts have little mechanical effect on characters of classes without alignment restrictions, so they can be as simple as the GM mentioning a drift one way or another. For some, though, redemption can be a driving force for character development or plots within a campaign. And for others, the desire to take a prestige or base class that requires characters to be good, or to use a good-aligned item, might encourage them to seek a purer path. This system presents guidelines for tracking a creature’s path toward redemption. It allows for a great degree of customization and alteration to ensure it feels natural for players and fits comfortably into an ongoing campaign. But keep in mind that certain classes and other rules require a more demanding form of redemption, such as a paladin seeking atonement or a cleric or druid attempting to regain her spell powers. This system does not circumvent such requirements.
Each character has her own unique path to good. Many creatures are set in their ways and don’t vacillate between distinct ethical philosophies, making such a fundamental change in thinking and acting an arduous road. The notion of good is as much about intention as it is about action. Simply committing a series of good acts is not enough to change a creature’s alignment—it must want deep down within itself to be good. As such, finding true redemption involves the creature passing through a number of stages on its path to goodness.
Intention: Determining a creature’s intention is largely a roleplaying task. Creatures that truly seek redemption should display genuine remorse over evil acts they’ve committed and must be willing to embark on the difficult road to becoming good. If you are actively seeking to redeem a creature, there is no guarantee of success, but by offering it examples of mercy and decency you might spark a desire to do good in its heart. Many times, confessing one’s past sins and evil deeds is the first step toward redemption. Purposefully completing at least one penance (see below) and succeeding at a Will save as outlined in the following rules should prove a creature is ready to begin its journey.
Calculating the Path to Good: To alter its alignment toward good, a creature must pass through a number of stages, depending on its starting alignment. A creature with an evil alignment must first shift its alignment to neutral before shifting its alignment to good. To make this shift, the creature must perform a number of penances equal to double its total Hit Dice. This number of penances must be completed for each stage of shift in alignment, from evil to neutral and again from neutral to good. If the creature seeking to become good gains additional Hit Dice or levels during the course of its redemption, the number of penances to be completed should reflect its new total Hit Dice. For example, if a creature with a total of 7 Hit Dice completes 14 penances to shift from evil to neutral, but gains a level before completing its path from neutral to good, its total Hit Dice rise to 8 and it must now complete 16 penances in order to complete its path of redemption. For exceptionally evil creatures, a GM may wish to increase the required number of penances to reflect a life of utter depravity. For creatures with the evil subtype, their alignment is ingrained into their very soul, and the GM may rule that they are beyond redemption of this sort or at the very least a difficult and exceptional series of tasks must be completed to facilitate the change in alignment.
Penances: To pass through each stage of its path to good, a creature must perform a number of good deeds equal to double its total Hit Dice. The GM decides exactly which penances are appropriate, but examples of such acts are included below.
When a creature completes the penances required for a stage, it must succeed at a Will save to overcome its nature. The DC of this save is equal to 10 + 1/2 the creature’s total Hit Dice + its Charisma modifier. If this save is successful, the penances have taken hold and the creature has completed another step toward becoming good. If the creature fails this save, it must complete another deed in order to gain a chance to attempt another save. It can continue to complete additional deeds after each failed save until it succeeds.
Sponsorship: It is far easier for a creature to change its alignment with the tutelage and support of another. Someone who wishes to become good can seek out the support of a good creature to improve its own chances of success. At each stage, a creature may enlist the help of a number of sponsors up to its Charisma modifier. Each sponsor aiding a creature on its path to redemption provides a +1 bonus on the creature’s Will save (or saves, if the first save is unsuccessful) to complete that stage of its redemption.
To be a sponsor, a creature must absolutely believe in the penitent’s ability and sincere intention to change its alignment. This certainty may arise from friendship, divine guidance, the application of divinations or mundane interrogation, or any other source that results in absolute conviction that the subject desires to be good.
Relapse: Each minor evil act a creature performs (casting spells with the evil descriptor, praying to an evil deity, using an evil magic device, mind controlling good creatures to commit evil acts, and so on) counts against whatever penances the character has already performed, effectively canceling one out. Any major evil act (knowingly slaying an innocent creature, spreading a disease among a community, inflicting pain on an innocent subject, or animating the dead) undoes all of the good work done for the current stage, and the creature must begin that stage anew. A GM may rule that a particularly heinous act reverses all work done, and shifts the creature back to its original evil alignment.
The list that follows represents examples of penances that you can use to pursue redemption or assign to a penitent that you’re sponsoring, with your GM’s permission. Your GM should avoid presenting too may options for redemption at once, as doing so would allow you to choose the easiest penance over the one most appropriate to the situation—those who truly seek to repent shouldn’t shy away from a good deed because it is difficult, expensive, or not their idea of fun. It is equally important, however, to work with your GM to ensure that penances are achievable, relevant, and available at a sufficient pace, so that the process of redemption doesn’t interfere with the adventure and group dynamics. Getting this balance right may be tricky, particularly if you are in a rush to become good.
- Confessing your past sins or evil acts to an appropriate good-aligned agent.
- Healing a creature you don’t know from a disease, affliction, or poison when doing so gives you no personal advantage.
- Willingly submitting to a geas/quest, mark of justice, or similar spell to show you are committed enough to the process of redemption to risk harm if you fail.
- Casting a spell with the good descriptor. This penance can be completed only once per stage.
- Donating at least 50 gp to a good organization or faith. Each time you do so, the amount needed for the donation to qualify as a penance doubles.
- Sacrificing belongings gained through evil means.
- Freeing an oppressed, enslaved, or abused creature.
- Preaching a sermon of no less than 1 hour on the virtues of good behavior. This penance can only be completed once per week.
- Turning a creature that has committed a crime over to a good-aligned authority.
- Completing a task or quest for a good faith or organization without accepting payment. A GM may decide that a particularly challenging encounter may count as two or more penances.
- Fasting and praying for 12 hours (leading to fatigue).
- Creating a good item and giving it away for free.
- Showing mercy to a vanquished foe.
- Completing a task for a stranger and accepting no reward.
- Refraining from blasphemy or bad language in private or in conversation with others.
- Instructing other characters or NPCs in pure courses of action.
- Ignoring or not responding to insults or challenges from foes.
- Attempting a Diplomacy check to try and resolve a situation peaceably instead of resorting to combat.
- Refraining from lying or deception for an entire week.
Many other actions that may come up in play could be considered penances, and your GM should feel free to count such deeds when they occur. The process becomes much more natural and genuine if penitent characters seek out ways to be helpful and pure, rather than simply working their way through a set list.
The atonement spell might appear to be a quick and inexpensive route to alignment change. The spell has little if any effect on creatures with the evil subtype, however, and perhaps most importantly it stipulates that “the creature seeking atonement must be truly repentant and desirous of setting right its misdeeds.” You may wish to make a creature pass through at least one stage of redemption as listed below in order to prove its intention and desire beyond question before it can become a subject of this spell.
Source Ultimate Campaign
Over time, a character might become disillusioned and drift toward a different alignment. This section describes an optional system for tracking incremental changes to a character’s alignment.
Every character has a 9-point scale for the lawful-chaotic alignment axis, with 1, 2, and 3 representing lawful, 7, 8, and 9 representing chaotic, and the rest representing neutral. Each character has a similar scale for the good-evil alignment axis, with 1, 2, and 3 representing good and 7, 8, and 9 representing evil.
The player decides where the character’s alignment is on the alignment track. For example, a mischievous rogue with a good heart may be a 7 on the lawful-chaotic axis and an 2 on the good-evil axis—a chaotic good character who is more good than chaotic. a cruel but honorable knight could be a 1 on the lawful-chaotic axis and a 7 on the good-evil axis, a lawful evil character who is far more lawful than evil.
When a character performs an action that is out of character for his listed alignment, the GM decides whether the action is enough to shift the character’s alignment on the appropriate alignment track, and if so by how much. Executing a captured orc combatant so the PCs don’t have to haul it to a distant prison may only be 1 step toward evil; torturing a hostage for information may be 2 steps. For minor infractions, the GM can just issue a warning that further actions will cause a shift on the alignment track. Extreme, deliberate acts, such as burning down an orphanage full of children just for the fun of it, should push the character fully into that alignment, regardless of the character’s original position on the alignment track.
When a character’s position on an alignment track shifts into another alignment (such as from 3 to 4 or 7 to 6), change the character’s listed alignment to the new alignment. The character takes a –1 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, and checks because of guilt, regrets, or bad luck associated with abandoning his previous ethics. After 1 week, this penalty goes away. Note that the character is still “on the border” of his previous alignment, and later actions could make him shift back to his previous alignment, with a repeat of the 1-week penalty, so after an alignment change, it is in the character’s best interest to act in accordance with that new alignment, embracing his new beliefs and philosophy. This penalty is in addition to any other consequences of changing alignment (such as becoming an ex-cleric or ex-paladin).
The mechanism for strengthening a character’s position within a particular section of the alignment track requires greater effort than acting out of character. a person who is a little bit good (3) has to work hard to become very good (1)—even a lifetime of mildly good acts is insufficient. If a character makes a great effort toward promoting or maintaining that alignment, the GM should decide whether that merits a shift toward one of the “safest” points on the alignment track (1, 5, and 9) where most out-of-alignment acts don’t risk an immediate alignment change. This helps prevent players from gaming the system by offsetting minor evil acts with an equivalent number of minor good acts to remain within the good section of the evil-good alignment axis.
A forced alignment change, such as from a helm of opposite alignment, shifts a character’s position on each alignment track to the corresponding opposite position (1 becomes 9, 2 becomes 8, and so on); a true neutral character jumps to an extreme point on both alignment tracks (1/1, 1/9, 9/1, or 9/9).
Unlike a deliberate alignment change, a forced alignment change does not incur the normal 1-week penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, and checks.
Using an atonement spell moves the character’s position on the alignment track the minimum amount to return the character to his previous alignment. For example, a fallen paladin using atonement to become good again shifts her position on the good-evil track to 3, even if she originally was at 2 or 1. The spell is a means of reversing the worst of an indiscretion, not for gaining a safe buffer within an alignment zone on the track, and this gives the character an incentive to work toward entrenching herself within the tenets of the restored alignment. Using the “reverse magical alignment change” option of atonement does not give the target the normal alignment-change penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, and checks, but accepting the “redemption or temptation” option does.
A GM who wants a grittier campaign or more flexibility in changing alignment can alter the size of the alignment zones (where everything but 1 and 9 are neutral), use a scale with more than 9 points to allow more granularity when quantifying alignment acts, or create transition areas between the alignment zones where characters can slowly change alignment without penalty.
When a forced alignment change is purely arbitrary (such as from a curse or magic item), some players look upon this change as a chance explore the character acting in a different way, but most players prefer the character’s original concept and want it to return to normal as soon as possible. GMs should avoid overusing forced alignment changes or make them only temporary (such as a scenario where the characters are dominated by an evil entity and are freed once the entity has accomplished a particular goal). Remember that if players wanted to play characters of other alignments, they would have asked to play them, and radical shifts ruin many character concepts.
Some classes lose class abilities when a character changes alignments. Alignment changes may be interesting for a short adventure, such as freeing a monk from the curse of a chaotic monkey god, but these situations should be unusual. For some characters, changing alignment is a character-altering concept akin to destroying a wizard’s spellbook or amputating an archer’s arm—the scars are long-lasting, hard to reverse, and end up punishing the player.
Source GameMastery Guide
Alignment is easily one of the most debated topics in roleplaying, and straddles the line between descriptive element and rules element. How it is treated varies wildly; for some GMs it’s merely a two-letter description, while for others it’s a web of permissions and restrictions. Sorting out how this system works is important; it determines how players portray their characters, and how you as GM adjudicate certain aspects of the game.
Alignment exists primarily to define and summarize the moral and ethical tendencies of characters in a game, for both PCs and NPCs, and finds its roots in the fantasy literature that inspires most roleplaying games. Many characters in such stories easily fall into the camps of good or evil, but others straddle the line and seem good in one instance and evil in the next. Additionally, the relationship and outlook of these characters toward matters of law, justice, freedom, and anarchy further divides them. Just as one character might ignore society’s rules in order to do what he knows is right, another might work great evil by manipulating laws to his own ends. Alignment interpretations are endless, and ultimately lie with you as the GM at a mechanical standpoint, and with your players in how they define their characters’ morality. Some gamers favor strict alignments and black-and-white judgments, while others prefer a gritty, “realistic” game in which morality is relative, and well-intentioned “good” characters are capable of terrible atrocities.
Many of the debates spawned by alignment arise as the system moves beyond mere description to taking on a role that affects the game’s rules. While no real-world humans can say they’re entirely good or law-abiding, there exist creatures that are fundamentally good, evil, lawful, or chaotic, and some magic depends on judging a character by its alignment. Because game effects are associated with an ultimately subjective system, you should make sure your players understand your interpretation of alignment ahead of time. The following are a few ways you might handle alignment in your game or use it to help players develop their characters.
The simplest way to view alignment is as nine literal personalities. If a character is lawful good, he always obeys the law and always does the “right” thing, while a chaotic evil character always shirks the law and acts maliciously. This is a system of absolutes, where free will and context mean little, everything is preordained, and every creature has a path. Players who view alignment as predestination might wear alignments like straitjackets, but at the same time, they always know how to roleplay their character’s reaction to situations. This proves both helpful and comforting to many players new to or ill at ease with roleplaying. This approach also renders alignment-based rules easy to arbitrate, turning every matter of determining alignment into a simple yes-no question. Problems with this method tend to arise when a game ventures into sketchier moral and ethical situations. A player might become uncomfortable when his lawful good character feels forced to obey the laws of an evil society, or might have trouble in a campaign that requires him to work with those whose alignments differ from his own.
Many players tend to focus more on creating characters with consistent, specific personalities rather than alignments. These players envision their heroes’ backgrounds, personality traits, attitudes, and goals, and only then choose an alignment that best reflects these facets. A character’s alignment then becomes a way of categorizing his personality, rather than defining him and channeling his actions. As long as the player understands the impact of his choice on gameplay, this approach works smoothly. For example, a player who chooses the chaotic neutral alignment needs to understand that certain elements within the game world will judge him based on this decision (as with any other alignment). Some temples might deny him healing because the biggest threat in the region is chaotic monsters, viewing her alignment as grounds for suspicion. This method is also problematic when it becomes too general. Accepting alignment as a broad category can render it almost meaningless and make it difficult for you as the GM to judge whether a character is acting outside of her alignment and arbitrate any game effects associated with doing so.
Another way to see alignment is as a series of concentric rings. In the center ring are all the behaviors that are obviously acceptable according to a character’s alignment. Around that is a middle circle that covers the gray areas—actions that might be allowed under certain circumstances or are unclear. On the outside is the forbidden area of extreme actions that obviously violate the alignment. Taking prisoners offers examples of all three circles. Accepting an opponent’s honorable surrender is clearly good. Torturing that prisoner for information might be in the forbidden area for a given good character. But what about threatening torture, if the PC doesn’t intend to carry out the threat? That falls into the middle circle. Taking this route means players must remember their characters’ alignment and act accordingly. At the same time, while this route goes far toward suggesting how characters might act in specific situations, debates might arise when group members don’t see eye-to-eye about which acts are permissible. Additionally, some characters might have varying access to the gray areas of their alignment, and GMs should discuss where this line exists for characters who face repercussions for deviating from their moral code.
While alignment is often a static trait, options and effects exist that might cause it to change, and players might seek to change their PCs’ alignments for a variety of reasons.
Voluntarily: Aside from merely having misunderstood what a specific alignment means, PCs might seek to change their alignment in light of game events or to qualify for some alignment-related goal. How this change takes shape should be determined by the player and GM. Often, some quest, trauma, rehabilitation, or other life-changing event triggers the alignment change. Players should be sure of their decision, as changing alignment should be the result of an extraordinary effort, not a whim, and a PC with a shifting personality risks losing definition as a character and might begin to seem like he’s trying to exploit the rules.
Involuntarily: All manner of events might lead a character to have an involuntary alignment shift. Some are truly involuntary, as some force overrides or corrupts the PC’s personality. The GM should work with the player in such cases, perhaps making an unnaturally compromised PC a confederate in an ongoing story. Stepping out of the norm and playing her own character in a contradictory fashion can be fun for a player and delightfully unnerving for the rest of a group.
Characters also risk having their alignment changed if they continually act in accordance with an alignment other than the one they chose. For many characters, this matters little, but in the case of characters bound to a specific alignment for rules-related purposes, an alignment change might mean having to reimagine their entire character. Instead of springing this on a player, make it clear when an action risks violating an alignment-related requirement. Sometimes this will be seen as the voice of the character’s conscience, and allow the player to refrain from the action or suitably justify it to themselves (and you) to bring it into accordance with their values.
Many GMs refuse to allow players to create characters with evil alignments, as is their prerogative if they feel such a character might disrupt the game or hinder the story. Occasionally, though, your players might have intriguing ideas for antiheroic characters, or you might have a great idea that requires evil characters to play out. Evil characters present more than just an excuse to engage in offensive behavior or play homicidal maniacs; rather, they allow players to mimic some of the classic cads and antiheroes of legends and fantasy literature. Just like good characters, evil characters have goals and desires and understand the consequences of their actions. Those who do whatever they want without consideration for the rest of the party risk undesirable repercussions. Adventurers who routinely steal from their companions or betray their compatriots are likely to find themselves abandoned or slain. But evil characters who are more than just psychopaths can prove to be valuable members of a group should their goals parallel those of a party. Talk with your players and discuss what makes their characters evil, their goals, and how allying with other adventurers might aid those goals. At the same time, players of good characters should think about why they might travel with such ne’erdo-wells (perhaps out of desperation, responsibility, or the hope of rehabilitation).
One way to develop evil characters is to examine their motivations. Below are some underlying motivations for adopting an evil alignment, and some questions your character may face in the course of play.
Appetite: Driven by curiosity, obsession, neurosis, or the search for pleasure, your desire for certain experiences or possessions lies outside the bounds of so-called morality. Maybe the first taboos you broke were minor, but your inner urges push you to ever more extreme violations. Costs mount, and sometimes tastes change—how much can your appetite endure?
Despair: You see yourself as a realist. You wish things could be better, but they can’t. Hope is a cruel illusion, and the kindest thing you can do for everyone (including yourself ) is to shatter that illusion whenever it appears. Given such a grim outlook, what keeps you going?
Entitlement: You’re special. Reality rightly bends around your desires. When people tell you otherwise, you either crush them and put them in their places, or persecute others to reassure yourself of your power. What makes you think you’re so important? Could anything convince you otherwise?
Expedience: You can see how playing by the rules could be nice, but it’s so complicated and restrictive! You just take the simplest path to your goal no matter who or what is in the way. If that makes you a monster, so be it.
Ignorance: You commit horrific acts because you genuinely don’t know better. Either you were raised to adhere to a set of monstrous values, or something in your past left you unable to empathize with others (or with creatures of a certain group). Is this willful ignorance? What could change you?
Need: For some reason, you cannot survive without sinning. Perhaps you have succumbed to lycanthropy or vampirism, or have become so addicted to something that you’ll do anything to get more. How much evil does lack of choice excuse? How much of your need is real, and how much is all in your head?
Power: You love power for its own sake, and any attempt to bind you with morality is an unreasonable burden. What will you do when you encounter a foe you cannot defeat?
Purpose: Your mission might not be inherently evil—it might even be noble—but it’s too important to compromise. If atrocities will get the job done, you don’t hesitate. But are you sinning to serve your purpose, or are you drawn to your purpose because it gives you license to sin?
Rage: Maybe the world hurt you, and now you hurt it. Maybe this wrath is focused on particular groups, maybe particular groups are exempt from a general hatred, or maybe you just hate indiscriminately. Is there some final vengeance or absolution that could quench your fire?
Terror: Something scares you, and you’ll do anything to escape it. Fear of death might drive you toward undeath. Fear of powerful forces might trigger blind obedience, frantic attempts at appeasement, or Pyrrhic victories. Can you ever truly escape your fear?
The great gift of roleplaying is that it allows people to temporarily experience what it’s like to be someone else, and sometimes it can be fun play someone very different from yourself—a person who may transgress your own morals and taboos. Playing an evil character can be a safe and entertaining way to explore humanity’s darker urges, as well as a way to help us better understand the motives and basic person-hood of those people we might otherwise write off as simply “bad.”
Yet while playing an evil character can be rewarding, it’s also challenging. As a member of an adventuring party, an evil character may see other characters as adversaries, victims, or expendable resources. That same selfish, potentially abusive mentality between players can ruin games, or even friendships.
The key to playing evil well is making sure everyone in your group is on the same page. While not every party member needs to be evil, every player does need to be comfortable with both where the story may go and the potential interpersonal dynamics. Just as there’s nothing wrong with wanting to play an evil character, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to play that way, either. Above all, be honest and open—a conversation where people feel judged or pressured will only set your group up for failure.
First, your group should create guidelines for player interaction. For some groups, PC versus PC scheming, in-character insult battles, and even PCs literally backstabbing other PCs can be as much fun as working together against a challenge. Other groups feel the team bond is central to play, or just don’t like interpersonal conflict in their leisure time; the line between attacking a PC and antagonizing the player can be hard to find, so talk about it up front.
Regardless of your play style, things will run smoother if you determine from the outset why the group works together. If you’re the only evil character in a party, decide why your particular brand of evil makes you a good fit.
Your party’s paladin might take pity on a dangerous addict or tolerate a power-hungry noble if she’s working toward the same goal as you are, but she probably can’t work with someone who kills innocents for fun.
Perhaps most importantly, both your group and your GM need to agree on basic boundaries. Many people may have triggers, or situations that they absolutely don’t want to come up in a game—examples might include rape or cruelty to children or animals. If someone voices such a concern, there should be no discussion—just leave those situations out of the game. Other things might be okay if they take place off-camera: a player could be fine with the story of torturing an enemy for information, but might not want to roleplay every grisly detail.
It’s best to discuss these boundaries at the beginning, but bear in mind that comfort levels vary from person to person, and may change over time. If you or someone else stops enjoying the game, pause the action and adjust accordingly. And whatever guidelines your group agrees to, respect them—and each other.
Many campaigns treat alignment mechanically—as a class prerequisite, a rough concept of moral standing (often open to much bickering and debate), and a benchmark for letting you know what weapons and spells to avoid. Others treat it with more reverence, with each player delving deeply into her character’s alignment and the PCs becoming exemplars of their respective moral philosophies.
The following variant system treats alignment as a storytelling mechanic, giving you guidance on creating challenges, tracking shifts, and presenting rewards to those who champion their alignments appropriately.
For each character in the campaign, you’ll need a copy of the alignment diagram reproduced below as Table 3–1.
Whether the characters’ positions are tracked by the GM or the players is up to you. There are two general ways you can start using this system. The first is the relative alignment method, which starts a character at neutral on both axes (or as near to neutral as his class’s starting alignment allows). Alternatively, you can use the standard alignment method, which allows each character to start with the alignment he wants, though he will begin closely bordering neutral and must work to fulfill the true ethos of his chosen alignment.
The basic principles for each method are detailed below.
Relative Alignment: In the relative alignment method, many, if not most, characters start out as truly neutral on both axes of the alignment charts (the number 5 position on both the law/chaos axis and the good/evil axis). If a character’s starting class has an alignment restriction, the character starts at the nearest border to the neutral range on those charts as she can without breaking the class’s alignment restriction. For instance, a monk would start at the 3 position on the law/chaos axis, but would still start at the 5 position on the good/evil axis. A paladin, on the other hand, would start at the 3 position on both axes.
This method makes moral conflicts dangerous for low-level characters. For a character who must adhere to a specific alignment ethos to keep certain abilities or progress in her class, an early slip might have her searching for an atonement or rethinking her chosen career path.
Standard Alignment: The standard path is less restrictive than the relative method. A player chooses his character’s alignment normally, and the character is positioned on the chart within that alignment but as close to the border of neutral as possible (either the 3 or the 7 position on each axis). If the player chooses neutral on either axis, then the character starts right in the middle (the 5 position) on that axis.
This method can also make early levels and moral conflicts precarious, but it does make it easier to stay on track and gain the rewards allowed later on.
During the course of play, characters fight monsters, find treasure, and decide to take the left fork or the right, but there are other choices that come up in a game as well—moral choices. In most games, these choices are fairly straightforward. Do you help vanquish an ancient evil from the kingdom? Do you stop the raiders from pillaging? Do you put down the hungry troll raiding far-flung hamlets?
Without mitigating circumstances, all of these can be seen as good (and probably lawful) moral choices, and can count as such when you are using this system. But this system really shines when the choices are not nearly so clear-cut.
Real moral conflict occurs through either moral challenges or moral dilemmas. A moral challenge occurs when something assumed to be a clear moral path is shown to be false or more complicated, requiring the characters to reevaluate based on the new information. What do characters do when they find out the ancient evil threatening the kingdom is actually a rebellion trying to feed the poor?
What if the raiders are hill people who were displaced by a dragon and are just trying to survive? Perhaps that troll is seeking revenge for the slaughter of its mate and children by the hamlet-dwellers. What the characters do in these situations, and their reasoning for their actions, may cause individuals to shift on either of the alignment axes.
Consider, for instance, a situation in which a group of characters is tasked by a monarch with ridding the kingdom of an ancient order of cultists threatening the status quo. The act of taking the monarch’s quest poses no real moral challenges or dilemmas, and thus does not have a chance to push a characters’ alignment in any direction on the two spectrums, though an argument could be made that the characters’ obedience to their monarch might be an intrinsically lawful act. But for the moment, let’s assume the characters are being amply rewarded for such a quest (as they usually are), so unless a particularly lawful-minded character turns down such rewards, the characters can be seen as pursuing their own self-interest, which is intrinsically neutral within this system. Through the course of their quest against the disruptive cult, the characters find that while the cult is indeed working to undermine the monarch, its reasons for doing so are not even remotely evil. The cult is chaotic, yes, but good, and it seeks to throw down the status quo as a way of relieving the social injustices the ultra-lawful king pursues to keep his power nearly absolute.
What do the characters do? If they blindly follow the monarch’s commands, and even find themselves agreeing with the throne’s more draconian methods for keeping the peace, they will slide toward the lawful side. Depending on their level of support for some particularly heartless policies, they might also drift toward the evil side of the spectrum. If they throw in their lot with the cult and actively fight their former employer, they’ll shift more toward the chaotic end of that spectrum, and depending on their motivations, they could also drift toward either end on the good/evil axis. These are not the only options, of course! The characters could try to get one or both sides to recognize the concerns of the other. This would be the ultimate peacemaker role and, if accomplished, would be a major victory for the good of the kingdom as a whole (and thus a large shift toward good on that axis). It is possible they could also play the sides against one another, pushing them into a deeper and more bitter conflict, then take advantage of the power vacuum created by such strife, which would be evil and probably also chaotic.
Regardless of the outcome, it is only in moral conflict that characters have a chance to make decisions about competing moral goals on both the good/evil and law/chaos axes, and it is those kinds of challenges this system requires.
More difficult to design, and often harder to adjudicate, is the moral dilemma. Moral dilemmas are like challenges, but they contain moral paradoxes, meaning there is never a clear solution, and the PCs must struggle to find the solution that is best for them. A group of adventurers sworn to protect the king and the royal line finds out that the king is a power-hungry demoniac who is opening a gate to the Abyss, and the only way to stop the plan is regicide. Killing the king would mean a bloody civil war, and the characters would be branded as traitors. Not killing the king, though, could lead to deeper suffering, or force the PCs to try to defeat an army of demons before the fiends tear the kingdom apart. The adventurers must decide the best course of action when neither is optimal. Naturally, the point in these situations is not to make the “right” decision, but to see what decision the characters make, and adjust their alignments based on that decision.
Nearly every adventure has the potential for moral conflicts, but you should be careful not to spring them on your players too often; otherwise you risk creating conflict fatigue or lessening the dramatic impact. While moral conflict can be a fun and thought-provoking part of a campaign, remember that some players like to focus on more concrete aspects of the game, and the best sessions often feature a diverse selection of moral, strategic, and tactical challenges. Moral challenges are often nuanced, and moral dilemmas can be frustrating with their “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” nature. Both can be just as stressful as a challenging battle, and can ramp up tensions at the table—for better or worse.
In addition, over-saturating a game with moral challenges and dilemmas may have the unwanted effect of cheapening them. Try to think of these conflicts as something akin to the classic “boss fight” in a combat-oriented game: a momentous occasion of great struggle, as opposed to the more common nuisance of a trap, which can be foiled quickly once the mechanism is understood. Consider limiting these types of challenges to once per character level, at most. Some groups may thirst for more, and you should give them what they want, but once per level is a good place to start.
While it may be fun to constantly challenge strongly aligned individuals, try to create moral challenges that the whole group can participate in. In these situations, characters will act as individuals and put forward many points of view and desired actions. This inter-character strife is often enough to create the framework for spin-off moral challenges, and give individuals the opportunity for alignment shifts and affirmations through interactions with other party members. Be ready to assimilate such spontaneous moral challenges and gauge them as appropriate. Even more so than the moral challenges you design into your campaign, these interactions can be visceral and fulfilling to players because they come from natural character interaction.
When faced with a moral challenge or dilemma, use each character’s response to inform whether he or she gains a shift or an affirmation. It’s up to the GM to judge whether a response warrants a shift on the alignment axes. Often, this will be easy: Did a character act in a selfish and uncaring manner? That may cause a shift toward evil on the good/evil axis. Did the character uphold the law of the land over the rights of its citizens? That may cause a shift toward the lawful side of the law/chaos axis. Particularly severe actions may warrant a 2-step shift. However, you should never allow more than a 2-step shift for a single action. As the GM, the final decision is yours, but keep in mind that players may disagree with your initial judgments. Allow them to appeal your decision. Take their arguments seriously, and don’t be afraid to change your mind.
Early in a campaign, you will likely have many shifts as the moral dimensions of characters take shape. Later, as those moral characteristics start to gel, some characters will settle at the extreme ends on one or both of the alignment axes. At this point, they’ll likely commit acts that support their alignments, but since they’re already settled on one or more extreme ends of the alignment axes, there will be no movement on the charts. In these cases, the character is awarded one or two affirmations—small, temporary benefits keyed to the affirmed alignment—based on how many steps you think the action would otherwise have shifted the alignment. A character can spend an affirmation she has gained once within the next 24 hours; any affirmations not spent within that time disappear. Spending an affirmation is usually not an action, but a character must be conscious to do so. The following are benefits gained by spending affirmations.
Chaotic: When attempting a Reflex or Will save, you can spend a chaotic affirmation to roll twice and take the higher result. If you already have an ability that allows you to roll twice and take the higher result, you can spend this affirmation to gain a +2 bonus on both rolls instead.
Evil: You can spend an evil affirmation to gain a +2 bonus on the damage dealt to or healed for all targets when you use an inflict spell or channel negative energy, or you gain a +4 bonus on a single weapon damage roll you make in pursuit of your own desires.
Good: You can spend a good affirmation to gain a +2 bonus on the damage dealt to or healed for all targets when you use a cure spell or channel positive energy, or you can impose a –4 penalty on the damage roll of a weapon attack made against one of your allies or an innocent.
Lawful: You can spend a lawful affirmation to gain a +4 bonus to AC against a single attack. You must choose to spend this affirmation before the attack roll is made.
Note that neutral characters do not gain affirmations—this is because neutral characters already have the advantage of not being targetable by alignment-based spells and effects.
As players advance in level and become more invested in the system, feel free to create your own affirmations based on a particular character’s emergent moral dimensions.
For instance, if one of your players is playing a paladin, it’s reasonable to allow her to use a lawful affirmation to grant an adjacent ally her bonus to AC. You can also design your own affirmations based on the action that led to the affirmation.
Morality and alignment are about more than just everyday actions. When you truly pledge yourself to an alignment, you become part of a timeless struggle of ideas that transcends mortal life and the physical world, a conflict so vast and eternal that the gods themselves are caught up in the fracas. As characters increase in level and power, they can play correspondingly larger roles in these cosmic struggles.
These larger ideological battles also involve moral challenges as already outlined, but the individuals participating in them tend to be powerful extraplanar beings like angels, demons, proteans, and inevitables—creatures that in many ways exist as physical manifestations of their alignments.
As characters enter the larger cosmic struggles of morality and alignment, they are able to gain new tools to help them champion their philosophies.
Alignment Feats: If you have at least 10 Hit Dice, you can take any alignment feat that matches your alignment. You cannot have more than one alignment feat at any time, but after changing alignment, when you reach a new character level, you can freely switch your alignment feat to your new alignment’s feat. Most alignment feats have a Residual entry that allows you to benefit from some part of the feat even when you no longer meet the alignment prerequisite for the feat, usually aiding you in a small way to regain that alignment. Most alignment feats also allow you to store affirmations for later use. If you shift alignment and no longer have the ability to store affirmations, any affirmations stored by that feat are lost.
You spread chaos wherever you go.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can use an affirmation to cast lesser confusion as a spell-like ability as a standard action, with a caster level equal to your Hit Dice. The duration of this effect on a failed save is 1d4 rounds. Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against lawful creatures. This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but are no longer chaotic neutral, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage against lawful creatures.
You are dedicated to perfect balance in the multiverse.
Benefit(s): You gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against good and evil creatures. You also gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against lawful and chaotic creatures. These bonuses stack with each other.
Residual: You gain no benefit from this feat if you are not of neutral alignment.
You would destroy the world if it were within your power.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can also use an affirmation to treat an effect on you from a spell, magic item, or other alignment-based effect as if you were neither chaotic nor evil. You can choose to do so after any attack roll hits you with such an effect or you fail a saving throw against such an effect. Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against lawful and good creatures (or +4 if the creature is both lawful and good). This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer chaotic evil, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against lawful and good creatures (or +4 if the creature is both lawful and good).
You believe that beings can thrive only when free.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can also use an affirmation to gain the effects of freedom of movement for 1 round. Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against evil and lawful creatures (or +4 if the creature is both evil and lawful). This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer chaotic good, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against evil and lawful creatures (or +4 if the creature is both lawful and evil).
It is your mission to do as much good as possible.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can use an affirmation and touch a creature as a standard action to remove a single condition or harmful effect from the list of paladin mercies (using your Hit Dice as your paladin level to determine which mercies you can use and their effects). Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against evil creatures. This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer neutral good, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against evil creatures.
Things would be better if everyone just did as you wished.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can use an affirmation and touch a creature as a standard action to bestow a single condition or harmful effect from the list of antipaladin cruelties (using your Hit Dice as your antipaladin level to determine which cruelties you can use and their effects). Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against good creatures. This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer neutral evil, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against good creatures.
You know that good must be tempered with order if it’s going to prevail in the long term.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can use an affirmation to treat the effect of a spell, magic item, or other alignment-based effect on you as if you were neither lawful nor good. You can choose to do so after any attack roll hits you with such an effect or you fail a saving throw against such an effect. Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against chaotic and evil creatures (or +4 if the creature is both chaotic and evil). This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer lawful good, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against chaotic and evil creatures (or +4 if the creature is both chaotic and evil).
The harmony of law is your highest ideal.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can use an affirmation to cast calm emotions as a spell-like ability as a standard action, with a caster level equal to your Hit Dice. Lastly, you gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against chaotic creatures. This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer lawful neutral, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against chaotic creatures.
You must beat down the masses to have true order.
Benefit(s): You can store a number of affirmations up to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1) to use at any time, not just within the next 24 hours. You can use an affirmation to cast hold person as a spell-like ability as a standard action, with a caster level equal to your Hit Dice. You gain a +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against chaotic and good creatures (or +4 if the creature is both chaotic and good). This is an alignment-based effect.
Residual: If you have this feat but you are no longer lawful evil, you continue to gain the +2 bonus on weapon and spell damage rolls against chaotic and good creatures (or a +4 bonus if the creature is both chaotic and good).
Alignment is a cornerstone of this game. In its most useful form, alignment is a shorthand to help players learn more about their characters’ personalities. But sometimes you may want to play in a world where there is no absolute good and evil. Perhaps the only lord willing to send troops to aid the PCs’ fight against an undead horde is an oppressive dictator who will use the situation to further his own power and oppress his subjects—but without his help, everyone will die. Or the PCs must face an infernal foe, but the only available way to take him down is to imbue themselves with demonic power.
In the following rules variant, the PCs can test their convictions against impossible situations and make decisions without players feeling constrained by the mechanical consequences their characters will suffer if their alignments change. Alignment is replaced by a new character aspect called loyalties, and class alignment restrictions are redefined in those terms. Several options for handling alignment-dependent spells and effects are presented here.
When you use the loyalties system to build a character, whether a PC or an NPC, decide on three loyalties. These can represent ideals, people, organizations, or anything else to which the character is loyal, and might be as abstract as “my honor” or as concrete as “my beloved mother.” Rank these loyalties from strongest to weakest. One easy way to decide the order is to ask yourself what your character would do if these loyalties came into conflict. For a more simplified game, you could use one or two loyalties. These loyalties then replace alignment as the standard by which characters’ actions are measured.
During play, a character might take an action that causes him to change loyalties, just as a character in a game with alignment might have to change alignment. Whether this has any mechanical impact depends on how the GM has chosen to deal with loyalty-based restrictions and effects.
Certain classes depend on alignment features. Below is a list of changes you’ll need to make to classes if you decide not to use alignment—you can use these as a guideline to change other classes as well. These assume that you’ve replaced the default alignment system with the aligned loyalties option outlined below under Creatures, Spells, and Effects—if you have gone further and removed even these basic alignment elements (as in the subjective morality option), then ignore all references to loyalty restrictions in the classes below.
Cleric: Remove the alignment restriction. Clerics must have a loyalty to their deity, though not necessarily to a church hierarchy or other clergy. Remove the restriction against casting spells of certain alignments (since such spells no longer exist), but create a list of spells that each deity would ban based on his or her portfolio and personality. For instance, a neutral good deity would not tolerate spells involving consorting with outsiders from the Lower Planes. Remove the Chaos, Good, Evil, and Law domains from all deities’ lists, and replace them with appropriate domains so each deity has the same number of domains.
Druid: Remove the alignment restriction. Druids must have a loyalty involving nature or the druidic code of conduct.
Paladin: Remove the class’s alignment restriction. The paladin’s code of conduct becomes “A paladin’s code requires that she respect legitimate authority, act with honor (not lying, not cheating, not using poison, and so forth), help those in need (provided they do not use the help in a way that betrays any of the paladin’s loyalties), and punish those who harm or threaten innocents.” Remove the Associates section under the code of conduct. A paladin must have a loyalty to the concept of good, and most paladins also have loyalty to a deity. For changes to the paladin’s detect evil ability, see the Creatures, Spells, and Effects section, below. Creatures whose loyalties are in opposition to the paladin’s gain no benefit from the paladin’s aura of justice ability.
The paladin’s smite evil ability works against any foe whose loyalties are directly contrary to the paladin’s highest loyalty. She can also recover one use of smite if she accidentally smites an invalid target. She can do this a number of times per day equal to her maximum uses per day of smite. This means the paladin isn’t punished for having to guess, but she also can’t use her smite class feature on every opponent as a de facto loyalty detector. If the paladin’s highest loyalty is to good, she can smite foes with a loyalty to evil, but if her highest loyalty is to her king, her smite might instead apply to foes with loyalties to the jealous baron’s rebellion.
The GM has the final say on how the ability works, since only the GM knows the NPCs’ true loyalties—a mercenary who works for a cause might not have a loyalty to that cause, for example. The GM can decide to simply have smite work only on foes with a loyalty to evil, or to require the paladin’s highest loyalty be to the concept of good.
Full Removal: You can remove alignment-based spells and effects entirely. Consider replacing monster spell-like abilities with others of similar power. You’ll need to replace other abilities that affect creatures of particular alignments (such as the heavenly fire ability of a sorcerer with the celestial bloodline) or restrict character options to avoid such abilities.
Aligned Loyalties: You can allow alignment-based effects to instead apply to characters who have loyalties to the concepts of chaos, evil, good, or law (or any concept close enough).
Outsiders Only: You can keep the alignment subtypes for outsiders and allow alignment-based effects to apply only to them. In this style of game, mortals live in a world with shades of gray, but true evil does still exist in the multiverse in the hearts of daemons, demons, devils, and the other evil outsiders.
Radiant and Shadow: You can instead have alignment-based effects apply to everyone, or nearly everyone. Remove the alignments and replace “good” and “evil” with stand-ins that lack moral implications, such as “radiant” and “shadow.”
These are then treated as simply two more forms of energy that exist in the world, and any creature can wield a weapon that deals radiant or shadow damage. You’ll need to make appropriate changes, such as changing DR 5/good to DR 5/radiant, making unholy weapons shadow weapons, and so on. Creatures that were once strongly defined by their alignment become more unpredictable. Maybe some angels are just as corrupt as devils, despite their celestial forms, and the PCs must team up with a noble demon and wield shadow weapons to defeat their foe. You can choose to grant certain creatures immunity; for instance, perhaps angels don’t take radiant damage from radiant weapons or radiant smite, the stand-ins for holy weapons and holy smite.
Subjective Morality: You can make your world extremely complex by replacing all alignment-based effects with subjective morality based on loyalties. In this kind of game, everyone is the hero of his own story, and the only alignment-based items and spells that exist are the ones named after the good alignment (such as holy weapons and holy word) plus detect evil. However, these effects apply not to good in the usual sense, but instead depend on the loyalties of their users. When someone uses detect evil, it detects others who have loyalties that oppose the caster’s. When a character wields a holy weapon, it deals extra damage to those with conflicting loyalties, and so on. It’s up to the GM to decide when loyalties conflict. For instance, if a magus decides that his primary loyalty is to himself, he could not reasonably claim that everything that ever attacks him has a conflicting loyalty, but an enemy who constantly abused him in the past would have a conflicting loyalty. Against this enemy, the magus’s holy attacks would strike true. This world might even do away with the idea of loyalties to the concept of good and allow paladins and antipaladins alike to use the paladin class and smite each other. Since even outsiders no longer have an alignment subtype, you’ll need to add other subtypes to the list of choices for abilities such as bane or a ranger’s favored enemy class feature. This covers subtypes such as demon or devil, but some outsiders have no non-alignment subtype. If you want such creatures to be subject to these abilities, you could lump them together under a new subtype (such as “independent”), or add subtypes on a case-by-case basis—the astral leviathan might have the “astral” subtype, for example.
Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. © 2009, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Jason Bulmahn, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.
Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide. © 2010, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Cam Banks, Wolfgang Baur, Jason Bulmahn, Jim Butler, Eric Cagle, Graeme Davis, Adam Daigle, Joshua J. Frost, James Jacobs, Kenneth Hite, Steven Kenson, Robin Laws, Tito Leati, Rob McCreary, Hal Maclean, Colin McComb, Jason Nelson, David Noonan, Richard Pett, Rich Redman, Sean K Reynolds, F. Wesley Schneider, Amber Scott, Doug Seacat, Mike Selinker, Lisa Stevens, James L. Sutter, Russ Taylor, Penny Williams, Skip Williams, Teeuwynn Woodruff.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Campaign. © 2013, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Jesse Benner, Benjamin Bruck, Jason Bulmahn, Ryan Costello, Adam Daigle, Matt Goetz, Tim Hitchcock, James Jacobs, Ryan Macklin, Colin McComb, Jason Nelson, Richard Pett, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Patrick Renie, Sean K Reynolds, F. Wesley Schneider, James L. Sutter, Russ Taylor, and Stephen Townshend.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Unchained. © 2015, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Dennis Baker, Jesse Benner, Ross Beyers, Logan Bonner, Jason Bulmahn, Robert Emerson, Tim Hitchcock, Jason Nelson, Tom Phillips, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Thomas M. Reid, Robert Schwalb, Mark Seifter, and Russ Taylor.